The latest addition to my website is Norah Lange‘s Personas en la sala (People in the Room). This is the second Lange book I have read but the first to be published in English, sixty-eight years after it first appeared in Spanish. It tells the story of a seventeen-year old woman who observes the three sisters who live in the house opposite and almost never leave the house or, indeed, the room. She wonders who they are and, eventually, gets to know them but still learns little about who they are. The whole story is told about the four women, as though sealed off from the rest of the world, with only occasional appearances by other, peripheral characters. There is a feeling of death, sadness and complete isolation hanging over them and the story. Lange tells her story very well, with what is not said as important as what is said.
The latest addition to my website is Miklós Szentkuthy‘s Barokk Róbert [Robert Baroque]. Though only published three years after his death, this is an early work, written when he was eighteen (and, apparently, never revised or even reread). It is essentially an autobiographical work about his eighteenth year and includes his home and school life, the conflict between his religious feelings and his lustful feelings towards young women and his desire to be a writer. He has many ideas for novels, stories and even a play, which he shares with us but which never get written. He also often veers off into flights of fantasy about his life, his writing and the young women he is attracted to. While not a great work, it is interesting to see what the young Szentkuthy was like and how his lurid imagination carried him away even then.
The latest addition to my website is Emiliano Monge‘s El cielo árido (The Arid Sky). This novels tells the story of Germán Alcántara Carnero, known as El Gringo, from conception in 1901 to death in 1981. El Gringo is a local boss and is happy to use whatever violence he needs to keep the local indigenous population and priests under control. Torture, brutal murders and horrible deaths are all part of his modus operandi, as we follow his rise to the top. Then, aged fifty-five, he decides to retire. However, he does not know what to do with himself nor how to control his anger, till he meets Dolores. However, as the narrator comments, a man may escape his life but never his shadow.. Monge shows a violence-filled life, from his violent conception to his violent death and lots in-between, an indication of what life has been and is in Mexico.
The latest addition to my website is François Bon‘s L’enterrement [The Funeral]. This short novel/long story tells of the unnamed narrator’s visit to a remote village in the Vendée region of France for the funeral of Alain, an old friend. We do not know how Alain died but we suspect it was suicide. The narrator observes the village and the funeral ritual. He was last there five months previously for the wedding of Alain’s sister who is now visibly more than five months pregnant. Nothing much happens but the narrator observes how the village has changed, how it looks somewhat run-down and how the people still just carry on. The narrator is an excellent observer and tells his account well but is eager to leave the village at the end.
The latest addition to my website is Gine Cornelia Pedersen‘s Null (Zero). This is Pedersen’s first (of two) novels and she has since made a name for herself as a TV star in Norway. This novel tells the story of a Norwegian girl, aged ten at the start of the novel and aged twenty-one by the end, who starts off by being somewhat sociopathic and, passing through teenage bad behaviour, has serious mental problems, spending some time in an institution, before being released and ultimately heading for Peru. Drugs, drink casual sex, violent behaviour, depression are all part of her problem. The novel is told in the first person, often in single, staccato sentences, as we follow her descent into Hell. Pedersen does not analyse or explain but merely shows what the unnamed narrator goes through.
The latest addition to my website is Sergio Pitol‘s El tañido de una flauta [The Tune of a Flute]. The basic plot concerns an unnamed Mexican film director/producer who, in his younger days, had made a film about Carlos Ibarra, his friend and a budding novelist. Ibarra has drifted around the world, never finishing his novel, slowly going downhill and eventually dying, with the two friends having fallen out. However, the Mexican producer sees a Japanese film at the Venice Film Festival, which seems to be about Ibarra and, indeed, about his last days. Much of the book is about Ibarra, the producer and a painter, Ángel Rodríguez, and how they link up, and their stories, with the book more or less culminating with the how and why of the Japanese film and Ibarra’s last days. It is a somewhat rambling first novel but still makes fascinating reading. Like, Pitol’s other novels, it has not been translated into English.
The latest addition to my website is Dag Solstad‘s Armand V. (Armand V.). Armand is a Norwegian diplomat and we follow his life and career in this novel which is not a novel but merely the footnotes to a novel as the author abandoned the actual novel for various reasons. Armand was appointed an ambassador at age forty-two, one of the youngest Norwegian ambassadors. The key but certainly not only issue in the book is the conflict Armand faces between his public views as an ambassador and his private views, particularly as regards Norway’s relationship with the United States. However, this inner conflict spills out into his personal life, in his relationship with his son and his two (former) best friends. Solstad leads us on all sort of tangents but comes back both to this idea and the nature of his (lack of) novel. It might sound complicated but it more or less worked for me.
The latest addition to my website is Germán Espinosa‘s Sinfonía desde el nuevo mundo [Symphony from the New World]. It tells the story of Victorien Fontenier, a French army officer who has fled from Waterloo after the defeat and, at the suggestion of his prospective father-in-law, goes off to Jamaica to deliver guns to Haiti. When he gets there, he finds that he is to give them to the wrong side (not the ordinary people but the well-off who want to restore slavery) so he refuses. He is introduced to Simón Bolívar who is, of course, the right side, and joins up to help the Latin Americans rid themselves of Spanish oppression. Exciting adventures, a mulatto girlfriend called Marie Antoinette and betrayal and the struggle for liberty are all part and parcel of this book, with an independent Colombia the aim.
The latest addition to my website is Amit Chaudhuri‘s Odysseus Abroad. It is a day (19 July 1985) in the life of Ananda Sen, an Indian studying English literature at the University of London. During the day, he visits his tutor (to whom he has sent some of his poetry) and goes out with his only friend, his uncle, who lives in nearby Belsize Park and whom he sees regularly. Apart from his poetry, Ananda has a dull life, complaining about the noisy neighbours, bemused by the strange customs of the English, finding sexual relief only in masturbation, and sure that he is misunderstood. Chaudhuri really gets into what makes Ananda (and, to a certain, degree, his uncle) tick but there are no fireworks, only begrudging acceptance of life as it is.
The latest addition to my website is Simon Sellars‘ Applied Ballardianism: Memoir From a Parallel Universe. This novel is an example of theory-fiction, in that it is written as a novel, indeed, is a novel, but, at the same time, as the title tells us, is something of a critique or study of the work of J G Ballard. The narrator is clearly based, at least in part, on the author. He is an Australian man who struggles to find where he is going but then discovers Ballard. While studying him for a Ph.D., what is more important for this work is that he continues to find examples of Ballardianisms in his life. Ballard’s view of the world helps him understand the world he lives in, whether it is in Melbourne with its various problems, or other parts of the world he visits, often as a travel guide writer. Sellars skilfully integrates the Ballard view with virtually everything the narrator does, sees or thinks. It helps to have read Ballard to fully appreciate this novel but even if you have not, you can still enjoy it.